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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Wednesday, March 30, 2005  
    Before going to sleep, I diverted a great big annoying fly into Guy’s room using a complex maneuver of shutting all the other doors and marshaling it into there.
    I intended to just keep it there in a holding pattern overnight so that I could evict it when I was up to it, but I couldn’t find it when I looked for it this morning.
    Maybe the deodorant (see archives 1/15/2005) fumes killed it – although I air the room out for an hour post-spraying, apparently they’re still pretty strong according to our freelance Sri Lankan cleaner who pointed it out the other day (lets just hope that her acute sense of smell is a domestic’s deformation professionelle and that it’s not detectable by average senses).

    12:45 am

    Tuesday, March 29, 2005  
    tsunami warning issued – “RUN!”

    Someone once told me about a nighttime fire in an apartment building in a working-class suburb of Sydney.
    She’d tried to rouse the sleeping neighbors and evacuate the building to no avail - “THERE’S A FIRE, GET OUT OF THE BUILDING!”
    Until her sister intervened with a more drastic approach, addressing the populace in language they understood – “THERE’S A F***ING FIRE, GET THE F*** OUT OF THE F***ING BUILDING!" (my emphasis).It worked and the building was promptly evacuated.

    5:00 am

    Monday, March 21, 2005  
    Pulling another correction (staying up all night and all day to hopefully cure my insomnia) – the third in nine days.
    I think it’s starting to lose its efficacy, like sleeping tablets (its polar opposite) eventually do and that I’m getting immune to its benefits.
    Time was when such a correction would set me right for at least two weeks to a month.
    So, it’s become more of a respite and holiday from insomnia more than a cure.
    That’s fine by me – one night of insomnia is worse than a hundred nights of wakefulness.
    Anyway, it gives me more time to read, write and listen to BBC World Service radio to see what disease they’re advertising this month.
    Although they drove me up the well with their pointless “AIDS Season” (as they called it) of programming last year, it was very successful – successfully telling Anglophone elites around the world what they already knew and successful in having them shake their heads at how terrible such a disease was, feel very concerned and contact the BBC urging that something should be done! (And then proceed to do nothing about it themselves).
    Speaking of useless so-called activism, I’m relieved to hear that U2 lead singer Bono isn’t going to be the next President of the World Bank (as some in the media have speculated).
    He’s certainly no banker (rhymes with?) and I think that he should stop “banking” and stick to his genius (his music).
    Notice the airliner that takes off over their heads in the “Beautiful Day” video clip?
    It’s none other than a Middle East Airlines plane – with the distinctive cedar tree that adorns our flag.
    We didn’t use the red, green and black flag template that most of the rest of the region used.
    How they tell their flags apart at Arab League Summits is a mystery to me.
    Although at one stage, during the French Mandate, we used the tricolor template - our flag was the French tricolor with a cedar stuck in the middle (just like the flags of Australia, New Zealand etc incorporate the British Union Jack).
    It looked quite nice and I don’t think that there was anything terribly wrong with it but we eventually opted for the Austrian template – our current flag was inspired by the Austrian flag (with a cedar stuck in the middle).
    We stuck a cedar in the middle of it and then proceeded to chop down all the cedar trees, knowing that we’d saved them for posterity on the flag (a la “They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum”).
    Heck, the way we’re going with our quasi-military government, we might as well take the cedar tree off and put a banana tree up there and embrace what is fast becoming a banana republic.
    The army should be the guardians of the republic and not the republic.

    10:00 pm

    Sunday, March 20, 2005  
    I saw a report on the Future television news a couple of days ago about a boy who got kicked out of a Omar Karami-affiliated orphanage school in Tripoli because his father had attended Monday’s opposition rally.
    His mother was interviewed for the report.
    I don’t get it – his mother looked well and truly alive to me and his father is apparently in the best of health and quite active (demonstrating isn’t as easy as it looks).
    I’ve since been told that orphanages in Lebanon aren’t just for orphans but for underprivileged children too.
    I should hope so, or else there’s a Dickensian fraudulent orphan impersonator out there!I told someone at the pub about this and he said “he (the orphan) is very lucky (to be an orphan and have both parents)” and that “they (the people who spotted the father at the rally amongst a million people) must have a very good camera”.

    1:45 am

    Monday, March 14, 2005  

    The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy
    -HL Mencken

    Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in central Beirut for an opposition rally one month to the day since Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated.
    Although it has been erroneously called a counter-demonstration to last week's loyalist rally (CNN), it is in fact a counter counter-demonstration as last week’s rally (which it has dwarfed) was itself the irrelevant counter-demonstration to daily opposition rallies (a quite revolution) that have been occurring since February 14th.
    As to the view from Harisa today, Arlo Guthrie’s famous “The New York Thruway is closed man!” exclamation at Woodstock 36 years ago comes to mind – the Beirut bound lane of the Beirut to Damascus Highway is packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic as far as the eye can see (and has been since around 10.am this morning). With the rally proper set to begin in fifteen minutes, they might not all make it, but they don’t need to – today the whole country is the protest venue.

    The army and other security forces have been unofficially sympathetic to the protestors.
    Before the dam burst today, the authorities had tried to stop the smaller protests that were occurring but a lot of those meant to be enforcing these diktats merely made a pretence of complying but were really with their fellow citizens.
    I heard firsthand stories of soldiers pointing out weak links in the cordon they had setup around the capital to demonstrators, telling protestors to pretend to rush them so it would appear as if they were powerless to stop them and a young lady kissing a soldier and then running past him with scores of her comrades as the gobsmacked soldier just looked on.
    That was all before today.Not even China’s People’s Liberation Army could have stopped them today.

    2:45 pm

    Saturday, March 12, 2005  
    A Lebanese-Australian I know went to the opposition protests in Beirut.
    His Arabic not being perfect, he accidentally fluffed one of the chants and ended up chanting something that meant the exact opposite (pro-Syrian).
    Fearing a saboteur, members of the crowd grabbed him and asked him who he was, who sent him and for what purpose.
    He explained – telling them that it was a language mistake and that he was with them.
    They told him that seeing he was with them, he should stay with them for a while longer and detained him briefly until they could establish that he was fair dinkum.

    Another Lebanese-Australian I know, visiting Lebanon a couple of years ago, went to a patisserie and selected a cake.
    The shop assistant asked her to then proceed to the register – “el sandook”.
    Sandook in Arabic means box, so, unfamiliar with the colloquial use of the word, she thought that he was asking her if she wanted the cake put in a box and told him that it was such a small cake and that it didn’t need a box.
    Whereupon he repeated the same request, she repeated her protestations, he repeated the request (not altering it in anyway to make it more understood) ad infinitum.And they probably would still have been there toing and froing now had not another Lebanese expat who was in the shop at the time stepped in and sorted it out.

    While we’re at it, the Arabic word for chicken sounds a lot like the word for soldier to the unfamiliar ear, so an American friend of mine once inadvertently called some Lebanese army soldiers at a checkpoint chickens.

    Another Lebanese expat I know once asked a shopkeeper if the shoes she was buying came with insurance rather than insoles (the two sound somewhat similar in Arabic) and insisted that they do until the misunderstanding was finally cleared up.

    My friend’s mother, who immigrated to Australia from Italy, told me that in her early days in Australia, before she’d learnt English, she was perplexed by all the signs in shops advertising salt (sale meaning salt in Italian).

    Another lady I know, also an immigrant to Australia, asked for a ‘’crap’’ at a restaurant rather than a crêpe.

    My aunty knew a Chinese immigrant to Australia who when invited to a social gathering and asked to ‘’bring a plate’’ (of something) thought she’d do even better and brought along a whole set of new plates that she’d bought especially for the occasion.

    A kid at my high school told his English-illiterate immigrant parents that a detention form that they had to sign was in fact a note attesting that he was ‘’a good boy’’.

    My two young cousins have given up something for Lent.
    Their older brother hasn’t, although his sister has suggested he give up dobbing for Lent (something she thinks he does way too much of).
    The middle one even told me a fasting joke that is so silly that it’s funny – this boy gave up Pepsi for Lent, so he’s drinking Coke.
    A friend of mine is doing the traditional midnight to midday fast.If you think that’s tough, spare a though for the Orthodox who fast an extra ten days on top of the standard forty days (I don’t know why – maybe it’s some sort of bonus).

    12:30 am

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005  
    - rival opposition and loyalist rallies underway in Beirut
    - there are more sheep than humans in New Zealand but that doesn't make them a viable majority

    The feeling here since February 14th has been one of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Like being awoken in the middle of the night by an upstairs neighbor taking off and dropping one shoe and waiting restlessly for the other one to drop because you know it has to.
    My feeling is that either everything will happen here or nothing will, as is the precedent in Lebanon.
    There is very rarely a middle ground – things either remain in stasis or spin out of control.
    Just like you can’t gradually release a jack-in-the-box – when it’s in it’s in; when it’s out it’s out.Anyone who would want to set such a trap here should bear in mind that although they might set the trap, they may not be immune from it going off in their face in the process or forgetting what it was and opening it up later and being surprised by it (a la the Americans and their Afghan Mujahaden jack-in-the-box).

    I’m a pessimist and history is on my side, would that it weren’t.

    3:00 pm

    Sunday, March 06, 2005  
    Somebody at the quiz this evening asked me if they were flying Lebanese flags in this area.I replied that they weren’t flying them en masse because they didn’t need to – this is the heartland and they wear their hearts and their flags on their sleeves here with barely an actual flag in sight.

    8:00 pm

    Thursday, March 03, 2005  
    - Indonesia denies sentence is too lenient

    1:00 pm

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